Hard Work vs. Quick Money
Contemporary art is a very complex profession. As in all movements, success is hard to come across, and entails a great amount of luck; thus, artists’ experiences vary. The 2010 film Exit through the Gift Shop is an interesting showcase for these differences, as it portrays many artists and their development in this field. The present essay will study the similarities and differences between the two main characters’ experience in the art world in terms of their introduction to it, popular success and other artists’ esteem. Specifically, while Banksy started out as an unknown doing street art, is world-renowned and has great esteem within his circle, Thierry Guetta began as a cameraman who suddenly threw himself a grand art show, has earned lot of money, but is very criticized by his peers.
While Banksy’s introduction to the art world was slow and progressive, through his artworks, Guetta’s was sudden, both as a cameraman and as an art maker. Banksy started out as an unknown, gaining fame through his art by making it in places that caused polemic, like the West Bank (Banksy 28:41), until achieving his first big exposition, “Barely Legal, which marked the point at which street art was forzed into the spotlight” (Banksy 50:17). Nevertheless, Guetta began filming the street art movement, where he quickly met most of the important artists in it. It wasn’t until several years later, where he interprets being called by Banksy make street art (Bansky 56:39), when he collects funds by his own means and opens his own art exposition, with very few works of art made beforehand.
In spite of these differences in length of time prior to the opening of the exposition, both artists did extremely well commercially. Banksy’s name preceded him; many people had heard of him, and perceived his artwork previously, including many celebrities (48:50). Guetta, known as Mr. Brainwash, did not have a cult following or recognition, but, through an effective marketing campaign, aroused so much curiosity that the exposition hall had would-be audience members waiting in line outside of it. Life is Beautiful “was nothing less than a sensation” (Bansky, 1:16:33). Both sold many pieces of art; while it is true that Banksy was more economically successful, taking into account Guetta’s lack of prior recognition, the latter’s feat is also commendable.
Nevertheless, popular acclaim isn’t everything, and while both of these artists are comparable in this respect, Banksy is very well-regarded by his peers, while Guetta is disdained by them. Banksy is one of the most respected artists in the street art scene, to the point where reaching him becomes almost impossible, as everyone follows his imposed rule of not divulging his contact information (Banksy 24:04). On the other hand, one of the producers says of Guetta: “frankly, he’s just kind of retarded” (Bansky, 1:15:03). Being disowned, and treated almost as a monster, by Fairey (Banksy 1:19:30), Banksy even blames him on his own not believing that everyone should make art anymore (Banksy 1:22:17)
In conclusion, Bansky and T. Guetta have had very different experiences in the art world. While Banksy was introduced into it through hard work, patience and political controversy, Guetta started out as a camera man, who collected his own funds to open an art exposition after only having made a few works of art. Nevertheless, both artists were very economically successful, while only Banksy is esteemed by his peers; Guetta’s reputation within the artwork is very negative. These artists have had experiences that are very similar in some aspects, but mostly diverge; theirs is the classic difference between winning acclaim through hard work, and making fast money.
Exit through the Gift Shop. Dir. Banksy. Producers Distribution Agency, 2010. DVD.